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Use and characteristics of the Belgian Warmblood
Though there are some variations in height, on average Belgian Warmbloods are tall horses, with stallions standing between 16 hands (64 inches/163 cm) and 17 hands (68 inches/173 cm) high. The most common coat colour is chestnut, although no colours are barred, and it is even occasionally possible to buy a Belgian Warmblood with pinto colouring, which is known as “bont” in Belgium. Regulations for breeding and registration are strict, and breeders must comply with them in order to sell a Belgian Warmblood. Stallions for breeding must pass a conformation and ability test known as a "Hengstenkeuring" before they can be licensed, as well as take part in dedicated show jumping classes. A minimum height standard has been set for breeding mares at 15.1 hands (61 inches/155 cm) high.
Origin and history of breeding Belgian Warmbloods
With the focus on its world-famous draught horses until the middle of the twentieth century, Belgium had restrictions on the production of other types of horse in order to save the Belgian Draught breeds from losing their distinctive characteristics. These horses had contributed to many other European draught breeds and were particularly popular in America, where the Belgian Draught developed along distinctively different lines. However, by the 1930s, Belgium had already begun to move in other directions with the creation of a type of cavalry, or hunter horse which later become known as the Belgian Sports horse. Today this is one of the three internationally recognised warmblood registries of Belgium, the others being the Zangersheide and the Belgian Warmblood. In a few decades, since the establishment of its registry in 1955, the Belgian Warmblood has established itself as the fourth-ranking show jumping breed in the world. From having no real warmblood mare base, there are now over 3,500 brood mares. The breed arose from the well-judged use of European stallions, particularly German and Dutch Warmbloods and Selle Français. Some of the tall, chestnut Belgian Warmbloods also show clear Gelderlander traits since these horses were also used in the creation of the breed. The breed was further refined by using Anglo-Arabian, Thoroughbred, Westphalian, Belgian Sport Horse and Rhinelander stallions. All registered members of the breed will carry the pinwheel brand of the Belgisch Warmbloedpaard (BWP) association.
Belgian Warmbloods in equestrianism
In 1984, the show jumper “Big Ben” was one of the first Belgian Warmbloods to showcase the breed at Olympic level. This successful equine athlete won an astonishing $1.5 million in prizes over his career. Belgian Warmbloods are increasingly successful at eventing and dressage, too. The eventer “Britt” was the first to prove the breed’s scope for Olympic-standard eventing in 1992. Now that the breed’s capacity for jumping has been proven without any doubt, this being the initial focus for breeders from the 1950s onwards, it is likely that the Belgian Warmblood will develop further in new disciplines.